Pauls Valley, Oklahoma —
As much as we might wish the stories we grew up with to remain the standard style forever, eventually we either have to accept their changes or simply stay locked away with our classics. Thankfully Tim Burton is still around kicking out his quirky style, the latest example a pleasant reminder of what he created in my childhood days.
It was those like Burton or even before him that inspired my brother and I to sneak away the family VHS camera to create our own stop motion adventures and a way of storytelling I love to still get lost in today. So when he decided to take an earlier short film of said style and bring it to full theater goodness I was certainly ready to once again see if he still had that same old touch. “Frankenweenie” not only feels like a visit to those treasured memories, but almost makes me forget any time has passed since the those bizarre encounters.
The story introduces us to a black and white world kids might only stumble upon if they accidentally flipped the channel to that Turner movie channel in a town called New Holland (which is reminiscent of other Burton communities like Halloween Town or that one where the scissor guy lived). In this gloomy atmosphere where you actually have to pay attention to tell when it’s night or day, we meet a young and outcast scientist/filmaker named Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan.)
He’s pretty much satisfied not being noticed or accepted by anyone else, save his dog Sparky and the regular horror film audience of his parents Ben (Martin Short) and Susan (Catherine O'Hara). Unfortunately, this seclusion is shattered in no time flat when Sparky is killed and as a way to get around the grief, sets in motion sinister forces by bringing the dog back to life. The tale itself is one of the most refreshing in some time despite how much it borrows from Burton’s other ideas and the rest of the characters from those like an Igor like classmate, Edgar Gore (Atticus Shaffer), to the mopey girl next door, Elsa Van Helsing (Winona Ryder), there’s never a dull moment.
About the only thing I didn’t like was a few moments here and there where the lighting made things almost too dark to see or the unnecessary 3D enhancements. It didn’t really hurt the film to have a glasses on version, but after it was over I didn’t feel like it added much to the experience either.
The end result is a wonderful parody that really did well in being expanded to a full length film. For those who loved “Nightmare Before Christmas” or “Corpse Bride” this will be a nice addition to the collection and is something the whole family, no matter how odd, should enjoy. As a result “Frankenweenie” earns a heart starting four and one fourth out of five lightning bolts.